Nearly 150 million people sweltering through deadly US heat wave

People enjoy the Astoria Pool on a hot afternoon in the borough of Queens, New York City, on July 20, 2019. (AFP)
Updated 21 July 2019

Nearly 150 million people sweltering through deadly US heat wave

  • Climate data showed June was the hottest month on record worldwide, with a heat wave across Europe smashing national records

WASHINGTON: The United States was sweating through a weekend of dangerously hot weather, with major cities including New York, Philadelphia and Washington experiencing temperatures approaching 100 degrees Fahrenheit (38 degrees Celsius).
An oppressive heat wave stretching from the Midwestern plains to the Atlantic coast had nearly 150 million people struggling to stay cool amid scorching temperatures.
Heat index values — combining the effect of heat and humidity — could reach 110 to 115 degrees, particularly in the east, the National Weather Service (NWS) said.
It warned that “dangerously high temperatures and humidity could quickly cause heat stress or heat stroke if precautions are not taken.”
The heat was expected to continue through late Sunday as a high-pressure system off the Atlantic coast ushered in steamy, subtropical air.
People were being urged to stay hydrated, watch out for the sick and the elderly, stay inside as much as possible and not leave children or animals in cars.
The heat wave already claimed at least three lives, including two earlier in the week in the eastern state of Maryland.
In Arkansas, former NFL player Mitch Petrus died Thursday after working outside his family’s shop. The 32-year-old died of heat stroke, the Pulaski County coroner was quoted as saying in US media.
Heat warnings have also been issued for parts of eastern Canada.
In New York, Mayor Bill de Blasio declared a heat emergency.
The New York City Triathlon, which had been scheduled for Sunday, was canceled for the first time since its founding in 2001.
The estimated 4,000 participants, many of whom had traveled long distances to race, will receive full refunds of entry fees of up to $399, organizers said.
The two-day OZY Fest, a food, comedy and music festival set for Central Park this weekend, was also called off.
In Washington, a popular outdoor jazz concert at the National Galley of Art was canceled.
New York City opened 500 cooling centers for residents.
“Saturday is going to be really, really bad, on through Sunday,” de Blasio said in a warning to the city. “This is serious, serious stuff.”
At least three public defenders said on Twitter that inmates in New York’s notorious Rikers Island jail complex were suffering with no air conditioning, and that some guards had turned off fans as punishment, resulting in “deadly conditions.”
The Brooklyn Defender Services legal aid group said some inmates didn’t have summer clothing, only long underwear provided by the group last winter.
Top officials from the city’s Department of Corrections were at the facility monitoring the response to the heat wave to “protect health and safety of everyone in the facility,” De Blasio wrote on Twitter.
The department said in a statment to AFP that extra staff were on hand to distribute summer clothing, and clinics were open around the clock to treat heat-related symptoms.
Those in units without air conditioning were given access to fans, ice, water and “multiple cool showers.”
The city’s electrical grid was so far handling the extra demand, which came just a week after a major outage, blamed on mechanical problems, left tens of thousands of Manhattan residents in the dark.
In Washington, the morning low of 81 degrees was just one degree below the record set in 2015, with “a good chance to hit 100 today for the first time since 2016,” The Washington Post reported.
Triple-digit temperatures in the US Northeast are unusual.
The Philadelphia Inquirer suggested, tongue in cheek, that locals might want to seek relief in normally sweltering Miami or Phoenix, which would be up to 25 degrees cooler.
Philadelphia looked likely to set a new record for the hottest July 20 since 1930.
In Boston, where the weather service said that Saturday and Sunday would be “major scorchers,” city officials scrapped entry fees at public pools.
In the far northwest, temperatures soared earlier this month in the state of Alaska, which straddles the Arctic Circle, with largest city Anchorage hitting an all-time high of 90 degrees.
Earlier in the week, the National Weather Service office in the Midwestern city of Omaha baked a tray of biscuits — savory breakfast bread similar to scones — on the dashboard of a parked car. After nearly eight hours and with temperatures on the pan reaching 185 degrees, the pastries were almost fully cooked.
Climate data showed June was the hottest month on record worldwide, with a heat wave across Europe smashing national records.


Fears of Islamophobia in the UK even as record number of Muslim MPs elected 

Updated 15 December 2019

Fears of Islamophobia in the UK even as record number of Muslim MPs elected 

  • MCB warning comes after Johnson’s landslide election result
  • UK saw a record number of 220 women elected to the House of Commons   

LONDON: There is a “palpable sense of fear amongst Muslim communities” in the UK, the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) has warned, after Prime Minister Boris Johnson secured a crushing victory in the 2019 general election.
“We entered the election campaign period with longstanding concerns about bigotry in our politics and our governing party. Now we worry that Islamophobia is ‘oven-ready’ for government. Mr Johnson has been entrusted with huge power, and we pray it is exercised responsibly for all Britons,” the MCB’s Secretary-General Harun Khan said. 
The warning came as accusations of Islamophobia within the Conservative Party continue to plague it.
Despite concern that Islamophobia is “oven-ready” for government, a record number of Muslim MPs were elected on Thursday, with 19 winning seats in the general election; an increase of four from the last election in 2017.
Of these, 15 belong to the Labour Party and the other four, including Chancellor of the Exchequer Sajid Javid, are Conservatives. 
As the UK saw a record number of 220 women elected to the House of Commons, this trend was also seen in the number of Muslim women, with 10 winning seats. 
Despite this, Muslims are still not proportionally represented in parliament.
Only 3 percent of the UK’s 650 MPs are Muslim, whilst the country’s Muslim population stands at around 5 percent.
The MCB’s concerns about bigotry and Islamophobia were echoed on Thursday by ex-party chairwoman Baroness Sayeeda Warsi, the first female Muslim cabinet member.
Warsi said the Conservative Party “must start healing its relationship with British Muslims,” and the fact that her colleagues in the party had retweeted comments from Islamophobes Tommy Robinson and Katie Hopkins was “deeply disturbing.” 
She added: “An independent inquiry into Islamophobia is a must — the battle to root out racism must now intensify.”
The Tory peer has repeatedly called for an inquiry into Islamophobia in the Conservative Party, and told BBC Radio 4’s Today program in November that the party had a “deep problem” with Islamophobia. 
“Remember, we’re now four years into these matters first being brought to the attention of the party … the fact that we’re still prevaricating about even having an inquiry, and the kind of inquiry we’re going to have, shows just how dismissive the party have been on the issue of Islamophobia.”

Britain's opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn and Labour MP for Bolton South East Yasmin Qureshi (L) attend a general election campaign event in Bolton, Britain December 10, 2019. (Reuters)


Later in November, Johnson apologized for the “hurt and offence” that had been caused by Islamophobia in the Conservative Party, and said that an inquiry into “every manner of prejudice and discrimination” would begin by Christmas. 
Despite apologizing, he remained silent about his own comments on Muslim women wearing the niqab in his Daily Telegraph column in August 2018, when he wrote that Muslim women wearing it “look like letter boxes” or “bank robbers.”
Fourteen party members were suspended in March after posting Islamophobic or racist comments on social media, and a member who had previously been suspended in 2015 for comments on social media was due to stand in local elections this year. 
Peter Lamb was readmitted to the party after he had served a suspension and apologized for his comments.
Lamb, who has since quit the party, tweeted in 2015: “Islam (is) like alcoholism. The first step to recovery is admit you have a problem.”
Yasmin Qureshi, a female Muslim Labour MP, has held her Bolton South East seat since 2010 and was re-elected on Thursday for the fourth time.
Speaking to Arab News, Qureshi said many Muslims were “very fearful and very disappointed” at Johnson’s victory.
“Generally, you can say whatever you want about Muslims in this country now and nobody is really bothered, nobody challenges it, and if it is challenged, it is very mildly dealt with.
“Islamophobia is a big issue and although everybody rightly spoke about anti-semitism, there was not as much emphasis and talk about Islamophobia.
“Islamophobia is not just in the Conservative party, it is actually in the establishment. It is especially present in the media in this country; most of the newspapers of our country are very right-wing and anti-Muslim.
She added: “It doesn’t matter whether you malign Muslims, it’s essentially okay, you can get away with it. That is sadly a reflection of the current state of affairs in the UK.”